”Airplane!” made our list of best disaster movies
FAMILIAR FACES Julie Hagerty and Robert Hays (shown); also: Leslie Nielsen, Lloyd Bridges, Robert Stack, Peter Graves, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Jill Whelan (Love Boat’s Vicki), Ethel Merman, David ”Joe Isuzu” Leisure, and Barbara ”June Cleaver” Billingsley
UH-OH! With a scenario and much of its dialogue lifted verbatim from air-disaster thriller Zero Hour! (1957), Airplane! finds a flight crew succumbing to food poisoning during a cross-country flight.
DISASTROUS DIALOGUE ”The survival of everyone on board depends on just one thing: finding someone on board who can not only fly this plane, but who didn’t have fish for dinner.” —Dr. Rumack (Nielsen)
SAVING THE DAY As in Airport 1975, a stewardess (Hagerty) must land the plane, with radio help from experts on the ground, until a more experienced pilot — in this case, her shell-shocked ex (Hays) — makes his way to the cockpit.
AFTERSHOCKS Aside from inspiring a less-than-inspired sequel, Airplane! established creators Jim Abrahams and David and Jerry Zucker as moviedom’s top genre parodists (together and apart, they’re the guys behind the Naked Gun films and Scary Movies 3 and 4). It also launched a second career for Nielsen — once a stiff, stolid second banana in dramatic films — as the deadpan comic leading man of countless slapstick send-ups.
WHY YOU SHOULD SEE IT The king of all disaster-movie parodies is one of the funniest films ever made, but it also has the thrills and spills that disaster fans expect.
EW GRADE A